JOANNA'S FOOD: family cooking, from scratch, every day

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Onions and garlic

The onion family is very good for healthy heart eating. I used to roast whole onions (the small so-called cooking onions you get in a large bag in the supermarket) for about an hour, when we were having a roast dinner. Now I find them rather bland, because they have effectively steamed in their skins. They taste very sweet. You can do the same with a whole head of garlic, and then lop off the top and squeeze it like a delicious toothpaste onto bread, or eat it with whatever else you're eating.

These days, I use the big Spanish onions, peel and slice them, put them on a roasting tray with some olive oil, and bake them for about half an hour. Sometimes I forget, and the edges get really black, and Lucius - amazingly - says they're even better that way. I occasionally add chunks of red and orange pepper to this mix, but generally it's just the onions. They go with everything, and they keep for days in the fridge. Rather like the salsa verde, they're useful to pep up something bland when you're in a hurry. Huge reward for little effort (I know that for this type of cooking I do have the advantage of the Aga; all the same, I'd switch the oven on specially to make roasted onions).


Here's something else from the onion family that we eat occasionally, this is a pungent Greek dip - we first had it at a small Greek restaurant run by an energetic old lady in a village half way between the site of the Battle of Lepanto and Missalonghi where Byron died (neither of which we visited).

Peel and cube 2 large potatoes; cook through. Process with 100g of blanched almonds (or pine nuts), 4-15 (yes!) cloves of garlic, 250 ml of olive oil, 1 tbsp red wine vinegar. Again, this is a recipe you can vary - I've never made it with blanched almonds, because I never have them in the house, and I'm really not going to start peeling nuts just to improve the look of the thing. I've got another version of this which uses bread instead of potatoes - let me know if you'd like that and I'll post it.

It really is worth a try. You can use it as a dip with chopped vegetables, or you can add it to soup and stew.

This week's experiment is going to be a sourdough loaf, which will involve making a starter which captures natural yeasts. I've tried this before, and only succeeded in making a nasty smell in the scullery. The new instructions are simpler, and only take five days to get to the breadmaking stage. I'll keep you posted.


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